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H is for Help!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Now, I have the hawk in a big supertough plastic tub. She'll be OK in there for the time being, but I have to drill some holes in it STAT. My heart is still beating out of my chest from the excitement of getting free from her painful footvise, then carrying her for a half mile, opening the front door with my face, carrying her through the house and down the basement steps, and successfully getting her into a plastic tub, all without getting re-clamped, perforated or, um,  enucleated by her wicked bill. I found out after the fact that she is a rarity for a buteo--a biter as well as a footer! 

 I get a kitchen knife, stab the tub lid in four places, and begin turning the knife to make a hole (my electric drill chops are absent; I didn't even think of trying to do that. I was in a hurry). I make four decent sized holes, and realize it's going for noon and I've had nothing to eat or drink. I stop to choke down some breakfast, then return to make more holes in the lid. I grab the knife and stab. Stab. Stab. I try a bunch of different places. Nothing happens. No matter what I do, I cannot make the slightest hole in that lid. I can't make so much as a dent!! What the hell?

I realize that, in my adrenaline-fueled rush, I was like the mother who lifts a car off her child. Had a hawk in the tub. Had to drill holes so it could breathe. If I didn't succeed, it might suffocate, or (more likely) I would have to handle it again, and THAT I did not want to do. So I stabbed and made four  holes in the lid, one with each try. And now, with the remove of a little time, having had a chance to eat and calm down a bit, I am weak as a kitten by comparison. So I decide just to enlarge the holes I made as SuperZick. Sheesh. Adrenaline is a beautiful drug.

Now, I have to get back out to my car in the hayfield, because Curtis is sitting out there, waiting for me to come back. The last he saw, I was prostrate on the ground, face down, with a hawk nailing my hand, and then I was walking away holding the dangerous bird out in front of me. There's another rescue to do. So I grab a bicycle and ride out, throw it in the weeds to hide it, and drive back home with one happy, wildly waggy and very relieved brindle dog. I give him his overdue breakfast.

That's an original watercolor on the floor there. He's a good boy, not the kind to stomp things.. 

Now, to figure out how to get this bird to help. I turn to Facebook, the oft-maligned but extremely useful outlet for you-name-it and what-have-you. I post a photo of the hawk lying helpless, impaled on the wire, and enter a plea for a ride for her ASAP to anyone heading to either Columbus, OH  (Ohio Wildlife Center) or Morgantown, WV, where two fine wildlife rehabilitation clinics are located. I don't think my plea had been up for two minutes when my friend Chris swoops in out of nowhere and says he's headed to Morgantown, home of Cheat Lake Animal Hospital and the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, this very afternoon. Wha wha wha?? woo HOOO!! and BOO YAH!!

Mr. Bennon, you are ON. I get his office address, pack up Curtis and the hawk and myself, and head for Parkersburg WV, about 40 minutes away. Chris is only too happy to help, and I am so happy to  turn his awesome orange truck into a redtail ambulance. After the morning I've had, I'm no good for a six hour round trip to deliver the bird to care. I am so thankful for my sweet friend, leaping to the rescue! Although I barely recognized him in his work clothes. He is usually grinding up ridiculous hills on his mountain bike.

Within three hours, the hawk is in caring, knowledgeable hands (as opposed to dumb, terrified ones) at the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia in Morgantown, WV. You will remember them as the people who miraculously healed the emaciated, broken Grand Central Mall snowy owl of 2017.  Man, that was a story. I disappeared into that story. Another bolt of grace, that bird, for so many people.

A radiograph showed no bones had been broken.  (All subsequent photos courtesy ACCA). Isn't she beautiful in radiograph??

Her patagium  (the skin membrane that stretches from wrist to shoulder) was not beautiful. When I saw this photo, my heart sank. I can't even really tell what I'm looking at here. I just know it looks shredded and raw and very, very painful. The hawk was immediately put on painkillers and anti-inflammatories, and I was so glad of that.

The danger in barbed wire entrapments is not only broken bones, incurred as the bird struggles and flips itself around on the wire, often getting hung around several strands.  It's shredding and (often) snapping of the patagius longus tendon, with grave implications for future flight. This photo was taken Oct. 25, showing the damage to her patagium to be more extensive than it appeared at first. Her patagial tendon was damaged, but not snapped, and for that we are very grateful.

The bird's head would be to the right, and the big mass of injury is near the wrist of her extended right wing.

The wire as clipped by moi. Nope, I don't want to make jewelry out of it. 
Throw it out. Hateful stuff.

By October 28, the patagium was looking a lot better, though it wasn't exactly pretty. You have to look past the gross matted feathers, to the flesh, to see the progress.

In order to prevent scarring and resultant immobility, the hawk was regularly exercised under light anaesthesia, her injured wing stretched and extended repeatedly. This would have been painful without the anaesthesia. (The hood keeps her from seeing anything and freaking out.)

I was glad to hear she was being exercised under light anaesthesia. Any other approach would be unsafe with this individual. You don't want this bird mad at you. I have a whole new respect for redtails after handling her. I realize that every buteo I've picked up before her (and owls, too) has been either so compromised they had no strength to fight, or exceptionally kind.  I shudder to think of the people I've told over the phone not to worry about it, just put some heavy gloves on, throw a blanket over it, grab its ankles and you're in control!  Lord have mercy. This bird is a lightning-taloned Zickkiller, a demon from Hell. She was my match and then some.

Her intake photo, Oct. 25 2019. OMG. I just realized you can see the length of barbed wire still embedded in her right patagial membrane!!

She was brought in the afternoon of October 25. She refused to eat. This was worrisome because she'd come in underweight, at 1090 gm (2.4 lb). Jesse thought she could have hung on the wire, struggling, for as long as 24 hr. before I found her. It's hard to know. But it was imperative that she eat if she was going to heal. Finally on Oct. 28, Jesse force-fed her a small mouse, loaded with medications, and that began a turnaround. She began pouncing on everything tossed into her enclosure. 

Leave it to ACCA!  They are all about healing! And isn't she WONDERFUL here?? Be still my heart!!


She is wonderful! If a bird can be grateful, I'll bet her heart is full of gratitude for you. Thank you for saving this amazing girl.

I have always loved your writing beginning with The Bluebird Effect. I pre-ordered Saving Jemima and have read that and have begun consuming Natural Gardening for Birds. And now your blog has become part of my regular reading. You have such a wonderful way of revealing (or reminding us of) the glories of nature and drawing your reader into all the dimensions of the natural word-- birds, other wildlife, trees (loved the blog post on ginkgos as I walked by one almost every day on my way to class) and many other things--along with you You are an outstanding writer and obviously an equally marvelous person. I just want to say thanks for the joy you bring into my life and, of course, for saving the red-tail.

Posted by Anonymous December 1, 2019 at 7:53 AM

A wonderful way to start December, this story!

It's hard to imagine something that has to be lighter than air being so fierce and strong as to take down a Zick. But just look at her! Wow!

Good news! Thanks for the update.

Posted by Harriet Zbikowski December 1, 2019 at 12:06 PM

I should've waited until morning to read this, 'cause now my adrenaline is pumping! Man! i'm really looking forward to the next installment.

Posted by mimimanderly December 1, 2019 at 5:42 PM

Thank you a lot for all the knowledge you could share jasa animasi

Wonderful! PS I am glad Curtis was willing to wait so patiently. I was worried about him!

All hail the ACCA!! I've banded some redtails and other buteos. Not sure if I remember them being any more feisty than other hawks we caught. What a bird she is!

Thank you for braving everything to save this bird - what a dramatic rescue. Thank you for sharing the story

This is way too cool :D Giving me so much joy to read these blogs :) TY for everything you all do :D

Posted by Lisa Frances Chociej December 5, 2019 at 12:41 PM

Getting caught up on this story after seeing peeks on Insta. Wow, wow, wow! What a bird? She is amazing. That before and after is really stunning. So thankful for you and your wide net of friends for restoring her to such glory. PS - learned a new word in this post, too. Enucleated. Nice!

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